There has been a LOT of buzz about Facebook’s F8 application platform since it’s release on thursday night. And don’t get me wrong, I think this is a REALLY cool opportunity to leverage the tools AND the community that Facebook has in place to spread usership and awareness of web apps. Facebook has opened up some ridiculously cool tools to a very large audience. But maybe..it’s too large?
I’m scanning my “friends timeline” and noticing a clear division.
My school friends (current undergrads and recent grads) have ALMOST no app usage, with the exception of the most popular app on facebook, iLike.
What does this mean? Well, at this stage in the game it means that geeks are bleeding edge and the rest of my friends aren’t as tech savvy. Fine. But long term, will the adoption rise? Depends on the app. I see things like last.fm getting a lot of traction. Music listening habits are always popular conversation on college campuses, and that data will become increasingly valuable to record companies and the artists, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the next step was INCENTIVES from the labels and artists to share your listening habits. Just my own speculation.
But beyond that, I’m having a hard time seeing F8 apps take facebook by storm. Even though facebook has opened beyond the “University Only” model, they have a stigma. In time, that stigma will likely go away, and if F8 is Facebook’s team being forward thinking enough to prepare for it, that’s interesting and awesome in itself. But I think that the Facebook audience at large (the large concentric circle of a large percentage of students in the US) compared to the rest of us who are really excited about F8 (a.k.a. “social networking geeks of the world”) still has huge opportunity for market penetration, like the Last.FM example above.
App developers: try thinking like a student. What do students need and use? I can easily answer the question because I was an on-campus undergrad very recently. Here’s a short list:
- Take-out Food
- Discount ANYTHING
This is hardly the end of the list, but a couple of quick, easy to illustrate examples. I’ll hit them one at a time, and how I think integration with Facebook would boost usership of Facebook AND the service being provided.
Take Out Food
When I lived on campus I had little interest in walking to the dining hall to get lousy food that was going to eat a hole in my stomach. Cheap pizza places (2 large pies for <$10) and hot wings (40+ wings for $12) were all over campus, and they all delivered. And the best part? When CampusFood.com came out, I could browse a menu, and then with saved credit card information, click “order”. Cheap food delivered to my door with minimal human contact, and no cash transaction, every college student’s dream. Campusfood (or someone else) needs to integrate this into Facebook. They already claim to support transactions, so that part should be easy.
Scenario: I come home from a party, a few beers in, browse facebook to add my new party friends, poke a couple of the girls that I think are cute, and order a pizza, all in one workflow. And best of all? In the morning I can browse the public timeline to see what all of my OTHER friends have ordered…maybe there’s a new spot on campus that I haven’t tried yet, and Johnny’s sandwich order sounds really tasty…boom. You have personal recommendations without people even needing to talk to each other.
This one’s easy. Facilitating a textbook exchange on Facebook is easier than ever. Someone should do this RIGHT for a change. I’d love to see a Netflix for textbooks, though I understand the challenges of varying versions/editions of textbooks. Still, seems possible. The ability to announce when I’m done with a book via the public timeline and have someone come along and snatch it up seems pretty plausable.
The success of the Last.FM plugin is encouraging, and I already mentioned my thoughts on incentive-based scrobbling. If nothing else, the publicity of “I’m listening to…” being announced on the “News Feed” is free publicity. I’m not looking to get paid for my data in cash, but something from the label to say “thanks for providing us with some of the most valuable market research info we’ve had in years” would be nice. Maybe an album or two of mainstream music that doesn’t blow? Discounts on itunes, etc seems to make the most sense, but again…I’m open to suggestions.
One of the most successful features of Facebook, in my observation, has been the party planning tools. Set a time, place, and invite a pile of people. RSVPs. Privacy from the guest of honor, if you need. Conversation about what to bring. Etc. College kids love to party, but once they grow up past the legal age to drink, many of them move form house parties (where they sit around and drink apple juice, i promise) to the local bar scene. These bars need to be taking advantage of Facebooks new open-ness. Promotions and event invitations with incentives like drink specials, guest list only open bars, theme parties…etc.
I’ve been using Philly2Nite.com regularly (and recently had the pleasure of lunch with one of the co-creators Chris Nagele, who has an awesome eye for the kinds of strategy I’m describing), and think that other city-based niche nightlife sites could benefit from Facebook’s new open platform. Philly2nite has it’s own social network and has come up with some cool ways of leveraging it, but tying the two together seems like a match made in heaven. PLUS, that network extends past graduation because we all know that people don’t stop having social lives when they graduate (at least, I hope they don’t stop). Announcements of friends attending a particular event is easy incentive to get someone to come out to a party that they might not have otherwise, and the Facebook mechanisms are perfect for that.
Slickdeals, Restaurant Coupons, FatWallet(and other cash-back deal sites) all NEED to recognize the opportunity to hit a target audience of kids who want to have the hippest, coolest, trendiest WHATEVER but are on a tight budget. Cash back and discounts are quick wins in the eyes of a college student. Take advantage of that, and work it right into my facebook account.
I could go on and on with this list, and if I had more time myself I’d build every single one of these apps, or pursue the means to make them exist. But I’d love to see the mechanisms provided by F8 really recognized better by the greater part of the social economy that comprises Facebook. Let’s see where this goes, and if anyone sees any of my app ideas (or anything similar) please let me know in the comments!
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